Communication service providers (CSPs), consumer electronic vendors, and network suppliers continue to fuel the obsession with connectivity through new devices, mobile broadband, and innovative ways for us to stay in touch. For those that attended any of the behemoth trade events that happened in the first quarter, you saw firsthand how connected homes, cars, refrigerators, and personal devices dominated the landscape.
The most recent industry exhibition, Mobile World Congress (MWC), is the largest event in mobile, which drew a record 67,000 attendees. This exhibition highlights mobile developments from around the globe and truly does preview the future of the industry. Over the years, MWC has expanded to include nearly all the various elements of the mobile community. 2012 was no exception, as we saw the GSMA Connected Home demonstrate how connectivity is becoming integrated into all aspects of our lives.
Having attended MWC since its humble beginnings, this is the annual event I use as a benchmark on the industry’s change. The increase in attendees over the last few years isn’t all that surprising, given the rise of mobility to mainstream. In the States, users might not know what “4G” signifies, but they know they want it. The Director General for the GSMA told us during her keynote that, globally, there are more than 6.6 billion mobile phone connections, 3.6 billion mobile phone subscribers and 1.3 billion phones supporting mobile broadband. It is no wonder the conference has grown to such an enormous size.
A noteworthy change at this year’s MWC is the shift away from the telecom industry’s obsession with “speeds and feeds,” and instead toward the customer experience. In 2011, the show buzz was all about 4G and LTE as globally CSPs raced to increase their network’s capabilities. This year we saw a very different focus, not only from our customers, but also other vendors at the exhibition. It isn’t so much what the network can do, but the experience it can offer.
The evolution to all-IP mobile technologies is well underway. The question now is how can CSPs monetize those investments. Policy and billing take on increasing importance as content providers flood the network with applications that harness the increased network capabilities. Many exhibitors at MWC 2012 highlighted their growing portfolio of services for this initiative.
While cost savings initiatives are critical, and certainly deserve a seat at the all-IP table, the real emerging stars are those capabilities that promote new revenue growth. It’s no surprise that more than 12,500 attendees visited the App Planet or that the GSMA unveiled its mPowered Brands program. Our growing connected-life has not escaped the notice of content providers and mobile service providers.
Questions on how to address issues of industry fragmentation, privacy and contextual intelligence were some of the main topics we addressed, with not only CSPs, but also others in the mobile industry. As demonstrated by the attention on the App Planet and mPowered Brands, our mobile lives have expanded beyond simple voice and web connectivity. Around the world, consumers and business professionals are keen to access information that is contextually relevant and enriches their mobile experience.
The new buzz phrase from MWC 2012 may just be “customer experience”, but what that means will evolve over time. Neustar took the stage this year to show the art of what is possible with mobile experiences, ranging from mobile financial services to enhanced mobile location capabilities connected to social media. For us, harnessing technology to enrich our personal connections is our mission.
As we head into the second quarter of the year, it will be interesting to witness how
“customer experience” changes the focus of the mobile industry. For those of us helping to shape this new paradigm, it is arguably one the best times to be in mobile.